Due to net neutrality, big tech monopolies are losing control over the internet. The netizens are biting their nails at this point, fearing the decision that could send prices for .com and .org domains skyrocketing. The increased pricing of these domain names is going to make running a website prohibitively expensive.
A domain name is how people access information in their browsers, acting as an address for websites. ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is the organization that governs the list of the web’s domain name systems. The organization has apparently opened the door to these monopolies charging whatever they want for registering a unique web address.
Removing Internet Monopolies
The U.S. government formed ICANN in 1998 to avoid a monopoly among the tech giants and smaller start-ups. In the early 1990s, the government privatized the domain name registry. The only bidder for the contract was Network Solutions, which had previously been managing the system. As the use of the Internet was still gaining traction, there were even lesser than 5,000 domain names registered.
Back in the 90s, for the registry of .com, .net, and .org domains, Network Solutions charged as much as USD 100 per registration. Antitrust concerns started rising later. Therefore the ICANN forced Network Solutions to split its registry, which manages the domain extensions, from its registrar business which sells the domain names to customers. The decision disrupted the industry as it led to a drastic decrease in domain prices with the registry as they were selling them to registrars at USD 6, a wholesale price.
Verisign later bought the registry for USD 21 billion in March 2000. ICANN then proposed Verisign to help spur the competition, and Verisign agreed to sell the .org top-level domain (TLD) in 2003 in exchange for an extension to its .com domain. Therefore, the Public Interest Registry (PIR) was the first nonprofit to be awarded.org extension by ICANN. Today, there are over 350 million domain names registered in TLD extensions. The .com TLD comprises of more than 150 million of those names and currently, there are over 11 million registered .org domain names.
Recently, the ICANN agreed to lift the previously installed price caps on the .org domain name registration after the contract expires. In ICANN’s new deal with PIR, the .org domain name is chargeable for nonprofits and other individuals as well. Afilias and Neulevel, domain registries that run .info and .biz TLD extensions also approved the price cap removal.
This means the Public Interest Registry is now free to charge whatever amount they determine for any .org domain name. Namecheap CEO Richard Kirkendall explained that PIR can now charge extra for registrations for specific names that it finds “premium” quality. As domain speculators already charge high amounts for premium domains, this move would potentially cut out the middlemen and allow the registry to generate profit directly.
Higher prices might pose a problem for nonprofits like YMCA, AARP, and NPR. Many debated that this would give rise to budgetary uncertainty to the class of organizations that can least afford such excessive pricings. If a nonprofit loses its .org domain, the name will become readily available to nefarious actors, creating security issues all across the web.
.com domain is next
It doesn’t stop at .org domains either. More price cap removals might be on the way. The current contract of ICANN with Verisign, the registry that runs .com TLS extension, includes price caps, which is why almost everybody can afford the .com domain for USD 10 per year. The renewal of the contract is due in 2024, in which the price caps are most likely to be removed. According to Kirkendall, this is the ultimate endgame. The .com TLD is used by over 70 percent of all registered domain names. Since it is commercial in nature, it would attract a price hike. Verisign also handles the .net domain and the contract renewal for that extension is in 2023.
Reason for removing the price cap
Experts say that eliminating price caps from those agreements would give Verisign the ability to raise prices for two TLDs that represent almost 80 percent of all registered domain names. The act will bring uniformity to its deals for .com and .org alike, also including new generic TLDs like .ninja and .xyz. Agreements for others did not include a price tab but some extensions like .bank cost thousands of dollars per year to register.
There have been trillions of dollars invested in the marketing of these TLDs that have established themselves as the kingpins of the internet world. These TLDs have a stranglehold on the market which is impossible to break. In order to create competition and level the playing field, the ICANN could open up a bidding process for the management of these TLDs by other registries.
If there is one thing common in the list of the most expensive domain names, it is “.com.” The .com TLD has dominated all other domain names. To clear the world wide web of this stranglehold, price cap removal would enable almost any word to be considered valid for the choice for a domain name, opening doors for thousands of such creative new TLDs. If these creative domain names are successful, these solutions have the potential to change our understanding of what it takes to sell a domain name for an affordable price.